I feel different today than I did a year ago. It's not just that I'm a year older. I'm a decade wiser. Unfortunately, the price of wisdom is often a painful life experience. In my case, it was hitting burn out last summer.
My biggest concern at the start of this year was this:
After regaining my mojo, how would I prevent myself from old patterns and habits kicking in and taking me down the same path to burnout?
Several things have helped. I offer this list as a starting point if you are finding yourself struggling with similar challenges:
- Create a framework for understanding the path to burnout and making course corrections. My friend, Richard Smith, recently did a webinar on burning out, helping participants identify symptoms and create their own action plan for reversing the downward trend. I wrote about my take-aways from the webinar in my new career blog in a post titled, "Breaking the Cycle of Burning Out". I've known Richard for nearly a decade. I'm thrilled he started blogging this year, as he has so much to share, in a way that is not preachy, but rather in the context of a fellow traveler. Reading his blog, Searcher-Seeker is like sitting down to a kitchen table for a conversation with an old friend. A friend who is wise enough to provide more questions than advice.
- Work smarter. I became curious as to how the brain works, having experienced my brain as a much more limited resource while recovering. (My brain literally "became tired" before the end of the day.) I educated myself with books. Two in particular stand out--Your Brain at Work and The Willpower Instinct. Once I read these books, I realized that sometimes, the odds are stacked against me. So I can go easy on myself, take a break, and rein in my ambitions--all in service to getting more done, with better results.
- Increase awareness of patterns that have sabotaged you in the past. Learn how to "get into your flow" on a consistent basis. I enrolled in a six-month coaching program with Michele McHall, who has helped me identify the "Racehorse" that has driven me so relentlessly in the past. Slowly, I am changing my habits of thinking and behaving and nurturing parts of me that have been disconnected and neglected. One of the unexpected benefits is that my relationship with time is changing. Things take less time than I think they will. When I'm in the flow, I have more time throughout the day for the other parts of my life, not just my biz. I'm moving towards Healthy Wholeness, my theme for this year. It has taken intentional practice along with increased self-awareness to get here, as well as a loving guide on the journey. I'm glad I'm making the effort.
- Align your work with the life you want. You would think this would be a no-brainer me, after being on my own for nearly a decade. But just like a ship can drift just a few degrees off of a planned route, and find itself thousands of miles later in a strange place, it can be the same with businesses. My business coach, Pamela Fischer, has helped me find my sweet spot as an entrepreneur, and integrate my life with my work. Starting from the core of who I am, and then adding on savvy business consulting, has made a huge difference in how I work today. My work with Pamela has given me hope that my efforts will lead to a more sustainable business, one that allows for both a healthy income and a enjoyable lifestyle. One does not have to be sacrificed in service to the other.
- Live a different life, at a different pace. I like to tell people that it feels as if I'm wired differently now. I don't think I could go at the same pace I did before burning out. I also know that this new lifestyle is about giving priority to the things that keep me in balance--long walks, time with my family, naps, unscheduled blocks of time in my calendar, blogging, gardening, reading. And more importantly, I have confidence and faith. The confidence to work at a different pace and the faith that whatever doesn't get done today, is better left undone until tomorrow. Or the next week. It all works out.
One year later, I am so much better off. I'm calmer. My days are more enjoyable. I'm in the flow more consistently. I'm living more on purpose.
Many thanks to not just Richard, Michele, and Pamela, but the many other friends and family who have helped me on my journey. I'm grateful.